“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)


How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)


''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."



African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Grey gold: Ivory Coast cashes in on the cashew

Yahoo – AFP, Christophe KOFFI, May 30, 2018

Ivory Coast is the world's biggest grower of cashews -- it now hopes to develop the
processing side of the industry, to create jobs and wealth (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

Abidjan (AFP) - Famous for its cocoa and coffee, the Ivory Coast has drawn up an ambitious five-year plan for the cashew industry, seeking to modernise production in a sector where it is already the world's number-one exporter.

"We have shown that we know how to produce the nuts -- now we have to demonstrate that we can sell them and above all process them," Adama Coulibaly of the national Cotton-Cashew Council told AFP.

From tiny harvests two decades ago, the West African country now holds the cashew crown, supplanting India as the biggest producer of the nut.

Helped by price guarantees for farmers, its harvest doubled from 380,000 tonnes in 2013 to 711,000 tonnes in 2017, amounting to 22 percent of global output. This year's production of the nut -- known locally as "grey gold" -- is expected to attain 750,000 tonnes.

Curvy, rich in taste and filled with protein, the cashew is a familiar ingredient in salads, stir-fries and other meals.

But it also features in a widening range of other food products, including cashew butter and cheese, and its oil has found uses in medicine, industrial resins and cosmetics.

$200 mn boost

Ivory Coast has a problem, though: the processing side of its cashew sector is puny -- it is currently equipped to handle only six percent of production.

Cashew nuts are peeled by hand at a factory in Bouake, then batched for export 
around the world (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

This is a classic dilemma for African countries, struggling to get out of the rut of dependence on primary sourcing.

"It's in food processing that the real added value lies... which can generate employment. Ivory Coast cannot allow itself to be merely an exporter of raw materials," Coulibaly told AFP.

In March, the World Bank announced funding of $1 billion (866 million euros) for development purposes in Ivory Coast, including $200 million set aside to support programmes to modernise the cashew sector.

Coulibaly hopes that with finance on this scale, the country might in the coming five years attain "a 50 percent rate of product transformation and 80 percent within the next 10 years."

At present, the sector includes 250,000 producers grouped into a score of cooperatives and employs some 1.5 million people, directly or indirectly.

The government plans to build agro-industrial zones at four population centres -- Bouake in the centre, Korhogo in the north, Bondoukou in the east and Seguela in the northwest.

Economist Yves Ouya said the poverty-mired north and centre of the country had to be beneficiaries of the boom.

"This is extremely important for the government in its fight against endemic poverty in these zones," he said.

Not just nuts: Ivory Coast is hoping to meet the growing demand for cashew oil 
and other spinoffs (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

'A working business'

The cashew's extraordinary success sometimes leads to speculation -- by traders who buy nuts below the floor price fixed by the state and hope to sell it on at a profit -- and to smuggling to neighbouring countries.

According to official estimates, between 20,000 and 50,000 tonnes of production is diverted this way each year. The authorities recently responded by ramping up the legal arsenal to deal with such offences, which also affect the cocoa industry.

Kouadio Djedri, a planter in his 60s at N'Zere village near the capital Yamoussoukro, likes to talk about how profitable the cashew business can be.

"I started out growing cashew nuts 20 years ago, when the product sold for 50 CFA francs (0.07 euros/$0.08) per kilo," the farmer, wearing a cowboy hat and green boots, said.

"From a harvest of 200 kilos -- two bags -- in my early days, this year I've grown 13 tonnes for sale at 500 CFA francs per kilo," he said.

Djedri, who is also village chief, has a cashew plantation of 11 hectares (27 acres) and plans to expand over a further 13 hectares.

"I tell young people to go into growing cashew nuts. It's a working business that has enabled me to send my children to school," he said.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Zimbabwe applies to rejoin Commonwealth

Yahoo – AFP, May 21, 2018

The Commonwealth meets in a summit every two years -- the last time was in April,
where leaders gathered at Buckingham Palace for a 'family portrait' alongside
Queen Elizabeth II (AFP Photo/Yui Mok)

Harare (AFP) - Zimbabwe has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth, the group said Monday, marking a major step in the country's international re-engagement after Robert Mugabe was ousted last year.

Mugabe angrily pulled Zimbabwe out of the bloc of former British colonies in 2003 after its membership was suspended over violent and graft-ridden elections the previous year.

The Commonwealth said it had received a letter dated May 15 from Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa applying to re-join.

Member countries "very much look forward to Zimbabwe’s return when the conditions are right," said Secretary-General Patricia Scotland in a statement from London.

"Zimbabwe's eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion."

Scotland confirmed that the Commonwealth would send observers to elections due in July or August, the first polls since Mugabe was ousted in November after a brief military takeover.

Mugabe was replaced by his former deputy Mnangagwa, a veteran ruling ZANU-PF party loyalist who was backed by senior military officers.

Mnangagwa has vowed to hold fair and free elections, and has pledged to revive the moribund economy by repairing international ties and attracting foreign investment.

Scotland called for "a credible, peaceful and inclusive (election) that restores citizens' confidence, trust and hope in the development and democratic trajectory of their country."

Britain said last month that it would strongly support Zimbabwe returning to the Commonwealth.

Zimbabwe had fractured relations with the West under Mugabe, who had held power since independence from Britain in 1980.

The government in Harare was not immediately available to comment.

The Commonwealth brings together 53 countries representing 2.4 billion people, under a charter pledging commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law.

The last country to join was Rwanda, in 2009.

The organisation also holds an Olympics-style multi-sport event every four years, most recently in Australia's Gold Coast in April.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

African nations vow to recover stolen assets

Yahoo – AFP, Ola AWONIYI, Joel Olatunde AGOI, May 20, 2018

African nations have vowed to recover billions of dollars held in off-shore
accounts (AFP Photo/Daniel ROLAND)

Abuja (AFP) - Former British prime minister David Cameron two years ago was caught talking about an anti-corruption summit and calling Nigeria "fantastically corrupt".

But meanwhile his country ranks among the top destinations for stolen assets from African countries.

Nigeria and ex-British colonies in Africa hope to change that by working together to repatriate billions of dollars in offshore accounts from London and beyond.

At a regional conference held this week in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, the heads of anti-corruption agencies from around Africa met to discuss strategies to overcome bottlenecks in the recovery of stolen assets.

"Concerned about the heavy losses that Africa suffers as a result of illegal transfers of proceeds of corruption and crime out of Africa," the anti-corruption representatives vowed on Friday to "strengthen cooperation and partnership in the tracing, recovery and return of assets".

They further pledged in a joint statement to encourage African countries to commit to greater corporate transparency and called for investment in anti-corruption agencies to "trace, recover and return assets."

'Fight this tsunami'

Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland said Africa is losing tens of billions of dollars annually to corruption, urging the anti-graft tsars to lead the "fight against this tsunami".

"We all know that the difference between the money we need to deliver the hopes and aspirations (of our people).... and the money we have, is the sum equivalent to that which is egregiously siphoned off by corrupt practices," Scotland said.

Nigeria, the continent's largest oil producer, is ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world by anti-graft group Transparency International.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to continue his war against corruption as part of his 2019 re-election campaign.

Buhari's anti-graft chief Ibrahim Magu claimed earlier this year that his agency has recovered over 500 billion naira ($1.3 billion) in illicit funds.

But the government's fight against corruption has been accused of being politically motivated.

'Mafia of leaders'

Commonwealth adviser Roger Koranteng told AFP that leaders at the summit want a regional approach to recovery of stolen assets.

"There is strength in unity. If you go as a single country, you will have a problem because the countries outside the African countries are together," he said.

Sustaining the momentum however may be difficult. Ghana's independent prosecutor Martin Amidu said the will to tackle graft comes in ebbs and flows on the continent.

"For me, for the past decades, Africa has had a mafia of leaders who speak of corruption as if they are against it but internally didn't attempt to fight it," Amidu said.

Still, countries stand to gain huge amounts of money should they streamline asset recovery.

Nigeria announced in April it recieved over 300 million dollars from Switzerland as part of money seized from the family of ex-dictator Sani Abacha, who ruled the country from 1993 until 1998.

Buhari said the money will be spent on a welfare scheme targeting the "poorest of Nigerians", in a country where poverty is widespread and unemployment is rampant.

Yet it is difficult to trace how the repatriated money is being spent, with some critics voicing concerns that stolen money gets repatriated to Nigeria only to be looted again.

"There is a need for robust oversight mechanisms as well as continuous monitoring of the use of recovered assets to ensure that they are used properly and efficiently for development outcomes and poverty alleviation," said Marie Chene of Transparency International in a 2017 report.

'Global effort'

Greater global attention on the issue is helping reforms, say anti-corruption activists.

"It took the publication of the Panama Papers to expose many government officials with offshore accounts," said Debo Adeniran of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders lobby group.

"The decision to sign mutual legal assistance with several countries is helping the (Nigerian) government in its loot recovery efforts," Adeniran said.

In January, Nigeria signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on asset recovery.

Buhari's anti-corruption sweep and banking reforms are acting as a deterrent, Adeniran added.

"When you steal and cannot keep the money in the banks, you will stop stealing," he said.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

S.Africa miners reach landmark silicosis settlement

Yahoo – AFP, Beatrice Debut and Michelle Gumede, 3 May 2018

The settlement will cover those who worked for the mining giants between March
1965 and the present day and will reportedly benefit up to 100,000 former mine
workers or their dependents

Thousands of miners in South Africa affected by silicosis from exposure to dust reached a breakthrough settlement worth $390 million with several mining companies on Thursday, their lawyers said.

The settlement will cover those who worked for the mining giants between March 1965 and the present day and will reportedly benefit more than 100,000 former mine workers or their dependents.

Many of those affected were poor migrant labourers originally from countries neighbouring South Africa including Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

South Africa's mines, which have attracted workers from across the region in the 130 years following the discovery of the world's largest gold deposits, remain some of the world's deepest and most dangerous.

"This is an historic settlement, resulting from years of extensive negotiations," said a statement issued jointly by the miners' representatives and the affected companies.

"The agreement provides meaningful compensation to all eligible workers" who worked for African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater, it added.

It is the first class action settlement of its kind in South Africa and follows three years of negotiations.

Many miners caught silicosis, which has no known cure, while drilling through rock and inhaling silica dust that lodged in their lungs and caused permanent scarring.

Symptoms include persistent coughing and shortness of breath, and the disease regularly leads to tuberculosis and death.

The agreement must now be approved by the South Guateng High Court in Johannesburg.

'The best we could achieve'

"The purpose was to hold the gold mining industry accountable for the enormous harm that it has inflicted on workers for years. The second objective was to bring a measure of redress for the families of miners and ex-miners," said lawyer Richard Spoor who headed the class action on behalf of the miners.

Some studies have found silicosis prevalence in South African gold mines at between
22 and 36 percent of all workers -- among the highest rates in the world

"It is the best we could achieve. We have not compromised. We have done the best we could possibly achieve."

Graham Briggs, who represents the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group which acted on behalf of six of the mining companies, said "a settlement is certainly preferable for several parties because it brings payment sooner than any class action".

"A settlement is preferable because it brings certainty," he added.

The joint statement said that six companies last year made financial provisions worth a total of 5 billion rand ($390 million) to cover the claims.

Anglo American has set aside the most for the payments with a provision for $101 million (84 million euros), followed by Sibanye which has earmarked $82 million, according to Bloomberg News.

Spoor said that claimants could expect payments to begin in September or October which he said might be "disappointing for those who have waited so long".

"In the last five years, out of 35,000 clients that my firm has represented, approximately 5,000 have died. It puts tremendous pressure to settle," he said.

In cases where the original claimants have died, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi vowed that "the widows will be paid (but) it is not going to be very easy to find them".

Some studies have found silicosis prevalence in South African gold mines at between 22 and 36 percent of all workers -- among the highest rates in the world.

In 2011, the Constitutional Court paved the way for the class action by ruling that mineworkers who had often accepted paltry compensation for their ill-health could still sue.

Activists warned of the huge challenge of organising the claims and dispensing the compensation.

"This is a good starting point, but they need to include actual miners and ex-miners in the trustees board so we can contribute to the rollout," said Rantso Mantsi, a former miner from Lesotho.

"There are many people who died before being compensated, hopefully their families will now be paid out."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Red Cross chief sees Syria aid shift towards 'rehabilitation'

Yahoo – AFP, Nina LARSON, May 2, 2018

Syria's seven-year conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced
millions (AFP Photo/LOUAI BESHARA)

Geneva (AFP) - Providing humanitarian aid in war-ravaged Syria looks set to shift increasingly away from emergency, life-saving assistance towards rehabilitating devastated areas to help Syrians return home, the head of the Red Cross said Wednesday.

Peter Maurer told reporters in Geneva that the conflict appeared to be entering a new stage, with fewer "big-battle" moments and perhaps even a chance to provide displaced Syrians with a sense of normalcy after seven years of devastating violence.

"Syria to us looks very different from Syria last year or from Syria two years ago," Maurer said.

Syria has been torn apart a war that has left more than 350,000 people dead and displaced millions.

But Maurer said that as the situation in many parts of the country appears to be stabilising, he expected to see a shift away from a pure focus on emergency assistance towards reestablishing services in areas people want to return to.

"For us it is just important that we get the rehabilitation thing going," he said.

Maurer pointed out that Syria now appeared to be split into fairly clearly defined territories, and said the "big actors" seemed ready to work towards "consensus to stop the war and to go into a phase of more tranquility."

'Post-big-battle era'?

"I have the impression we are at a little bit of a threshold moment," he said, adding that he believed "we are entering the post-big battle era."

The Damascus regime has retaken large parts of Syria since 2015 with Russia's backing, but opposition groups with Western backing still control most of the northern Idlib province.

Turkey also controls an area in the north after launching an operation into Syria in January to root out the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in the Afrin enclave.

Maurer acknowledged that the situation could still spiral in a "dangerous" direction.

But he said his recent visits to Moscow and other capitals had convinced him there was now a "minimal consensus" to stabilise the country.

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, says
the Syria conflict may be changing (AFP Photo/HAMZA AL-AJWEH)

Despite a relative calm in a number of places across the country, Maurer stressed that "humanitarian assistance (must) continue to go into Syria, because ... there are a lot of humanitarian needs."

But he said the nature of the assistance would evolve in many places away from pure emergency assistance towards "protection activities".

Chance of normalcy?

Such activities include helping reestablish basic services, assisting people to find lost family members and also help provide protection to avoid communities coming under attack.

ICRC said it had received some 13,000 tracing requests from people looking for loved ones since the start of the conflict, with the number of requests soaring 25 percent in 2017.

This increase, Maurer said, indicated that people were no longer focused only on emergency needs but could concentrate more on broader necessities.

These include reestablishing basic services in relatively stable areas that people want to return to, he said.

Maurer insisted that this should not be seen as a reconstruction bid -- a controversial issue that is politically fraught, with widespread disagreement on whether to work with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to rebuild the country.

"When you bring a mobile medical clinic in to a destroyed city in Syria to which people are returning, that is not reconstruction. That is to us rehabilitation."

Maurer said he believed there was "the chance in Syria, with a little bit of support to bring back normalcy to Syrians," adding though that "just to do minimal humanitarian assistance won't do the trick."

Sunday, April 29, 2018

In first for Tunisia, police and soldiers head to polls

Yahoo – AFP, April 29, 2018

A Tunisian policeman casts his vote in the municipal elections at a polling station
 for the police and military in the capital Tunis on April 29, 2018 (AFP Photo/
FETHI BELAID)

Tunis (AFP) - Police and soldiers went to the ballot box for the first time in Tunisia on Sunday, casting votes in municipal elections after the lifting of a longtime ban.

Most Tunisians will vote on May 6 in the municipal polls -- the first since the North African country's 2011 revolution -- but members of the security forces cast their ballots a week earlier.

"This is a historic day. For the first time we are exercising a right of citizenship," a police officer told AFP at a polling station in central Tunis, asking to remain anonymous.

Under the long rule of ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, authorities outlawed voting by soldiers and police, insisting security forces remain outside of politics.

But after Ben Ali's fall, long-banned police unions formed and called for the right to vote.

The new electoral law only allows security forces and members of the army to vote in municipal elections. Police and soldiers are barred from participating in election campaigns or attending public meetings.

Some 36,055 soldiers and security agents are registered to vote, according to Mehdi Jalouali from Tunisia's Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE).

Most police unions have called for participation in the vote, but one organisation has called for a boycott.

"The security institution is at the disposal of the people and it must be neutral, with this vote it will not be," said Chokri Hamad, spokesman for the National Union of Interior Security Forces.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stiff new licence fees threaten Tanzanian blogosphere

Yahoo – AFP, April 14, 2018

Magufuli -- pictured on a campaign billboard for the 2015 president elections --
has been accusing of seeking to muzzle dissent (AFP Photo/Daniel Hayduk)

Nairobi (Kenya) (AFP) - Tanzanians have to pay $900 for a permit to blog, a staggering amount for many in the country, say critics who see the fee as a further bid by President John Magufuli to gag dissident voices.

A sweeping new law covering a broad range of online activity was signed in mid-March.

Under it, the operators of online platforms such as blogs, podcasts and live streaming services will have to pay stiff fees to operate.

To launch a blog, for example, a user must pay over two million Tanzanian shillings ($900, 750 euros) in fees to get a license. A renewal fee of over $400 is due every three years thereafter.

"The simple creation of a platform represents several months' salary for a blogger," said Arnaud Froger of the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

"Tanzanian authorities want to get rid of the blogosphere and they couldn't have chosen a better way to do it," he said in a statement.

"The climate of fear and self-censorship that has already affected traditional media is now reaching online media, where many journalists found refuge."

Tanzania has a vibrant blogging community, whose members report or comment extensively on news, entertainment and music, as well as sport, lifestyle and travel.

Under the new law, a blogger can face fines of up to $2,200 for publishing content considered "indecent, obscene (or) hate speech", or even just for causing "annoyance".

The legislation broadly defines a blog as "a website containing a writer's or group of writers' own; experiences, observations, opinions including current news, events, journals, advertisements and images, video clips and links to other websites".

Getting rid of critics

Magufuli, 58, took office in 2015 as a corruption-fighting "man of the people".

But he has earned criticism for his authoritarian leadership style, with detractors saying he has clamped down on opposition and freedom of expression.

Under his rule, numerous opposition members have been arrested or jailed, critical media shut down and people arrested for perceived "insults" to the president.

On February 26, a Tanzanian court handed two five-month jail terms to two opponents of the regime, including a lawmaker, for allegedly defaming the president.

A new law introduced in 2016 required journalists to register themselves as such, seen as a further bid to curtail the media.

In March police arrested a driver and a farmer accused of calling for anti-government protests on social media.

For many in the online media fraternity, the latest law governing web content is just another nail in the coffin of media freedom.

"Most bloggers will not be able to find this money. But the problem is bigger than the financial aspect," said Maxence Melo, founder of the Jamii Media blog who has previously been taken to court for refusing to reveal the identity of a critical contributor to his site.

"The government's objective is to get rid of sites which are already considered critical. Because paying a fee doesn't mean you will have a licence, the relevant government department can still refuse this permit."

During a public discussion last week over the new law, the secretary general of the Tanzania Bloggers Network, Frantz Mwantepele, said many would struggle to "fulfill the conditions in the law".

"The fees that we are supposed to pay for licenses far surpass the revenues of many bloggers," he said.

Mike Mushi, who also works for Jamii Media, asked why the government was imposing fees when it is not the owner of the internet as a means of publication.

When it comes to traditional radio and television "we know that the government is the owner of the frequencies they use. But is the government the owner of the internet?"

Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Illegal to be who I am' - Daley urges change in same-sex laws

Yahoo – AFP, Robert SMITH, April 13, 2018

Britain's Tom Daley has voiced his concerns about the treatment of homosexuals
 in large parts of the Commonwealth, whose athletes are gathered on Australia's
Gold Coast for the ongoing Games (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) - English world champion diver Tom Daley on Friday urged Commonwealth nations who outlaw homosexuality to relax their anti-gay stance.

Openly gay Daley, who is expecting a child with his partner through a surrogate, grasped the opportunity of his gold medal triumph in the 10m synchro event to push for change.

Daley, who won gold with team-mate Daniel Goodfellow, said sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex are criminalised in 37 Commonwealth countries.

Daley voiced his concerns about the treatment of homosexuals in large parts of the Commonwealth, whose athletes are gathered on Australia's Gold Coast for the ongoing Games.

"Hopefully, I know this might sound a bit political, but by the next Commonwealth Games (in Birmingham 2022), there are 37 countries in the Commonwealth where it's currently illegal to be who I am, so hopefully we can reduce that number between now and then," Daley told reporters.

"Coming to the Gold Coast and being able to live as an openly gay man is really important and to be able to feel comfortable in who you are when you are standing on that diving board.

"For 37 countries that are here participating that's very much not the case."

Daley said it was time for those Commonwealth countries to change their anti-gay laws.

"You just have to face those things and try and make change," he said.

"There are lots of things that are going to take a long time to change, but I feel with the Commonwealth I think we can really help push some of the other nations to relax their laws on anti-gay sex."

Commonwealth Games Federation CEO David Grevemberg said his organisation was proud of its record on inclusivity.

"At the time of Glasgow 2014, 43 Commonwealth countries criminalised same sex activity, but today, that number has been reduced to 37," Grevemberg said Friday.

"We hope that the Commonwealth sports movement is playing a meaningful role in the wider global conversation around tolerance, empowerment and legal recognition for all."

Daley's comments were backed by New Zealand boxer Alexis Pritchard, who wore rainbow socks in support of gay rights in her 57kg semi-final on Friday.

"I think it's particularly sad that people cannot love who they want to love," she told AFP.

"It's important that each and every individual has rights to receive love and give love to the people that they choose.

"I find it absolutely sad that we are not open to that in so many nations."

The penalties for private, consensual sexual conduct between same-sex adults remain harsh in a number of Commonwealth countries, including imprisonment, hard labour and in some cases flogging.

The Commonwealth countries that outlaw homosexuality include Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tonga.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The path to court: Zuma and the arms deal

Yahoo – AFP, April 6, 2018

South Africa's National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams, pictured,
said there were 'reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Mr Zuma'
(AFP Photo/WIKUS DE WET)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Here is a timeline of major events in the corruption charges against South African former president Jacob Zuma:

Red flag

- November 1998: The cabinet approves an arms deal at a price tag of $2.5 billion. On the same day Zuma, then a provincial minister, meets with his personal financial advisor Schabir Shaik and an official from French arms dealer Thomson-CSF. The auditor-general soon raises a red flag over the deal as "high-risk".

- June 1999: Thabo Mbeki is elected president of South Africa with Jacob Zuma as his deputy.

- September 1999: An opposition lawmaker Patricia de Lille alerts parliament that the arms deal could be graft-ridden and calls for an inquiry.

- December 1999: Finance Minister Trevor Manuel seals the deal at 29.9 billion rand.

- February 2000: The serious economic crimes offences police unit known as the Scorpions launch investigations.

- October 2004: Trial of Zuma's adviser Shaik opens.

President Zuma

- June 2005: Shaik is convicted and jailed for 15 years for fraud and corruption. Four years later he is released on medical parole in 2009, the year Zuma becomes president.

Zuma is accused in court of having had a "generally corrupt" relationship with Shaik. Mbeki fires him as deputy president.

Zuma was forced to resign as South African president by his party in the wake of
mounting corruption scandals (AFP Photo/MUJAHID SAFODIEN)

- December 2007: Zuma is elected president of the ruling African National Congress party. Ten days later Zuma is slapped with fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges.

- April 2009: Acting chief prosecutor Mokotedi Mpshe withdraws charges against Zuma based on the phone conversation of the so-called "spy tapes" that suggest the charges were politically motivated.

- May 2009: Zuma is sworn in as South Africa's president.

Mounting scandal

- April 2016: The inquiry clears all government officials of corruption over the arms deal. But days later, the High Court in Pretoria rules that the 2009 decision to drop the charges was "irrational" and that charges must be reinstated.

- October 2017: The Supreme Court of Appeal rules that Zuma is liable for prosecution.

- February 2018: Zuma is forced to resign as South African president by his party in the wake of mounting corruption scandals.

- March 2018: Prosecutors decide he should face 12 counts of fraud, two of corruption, one of racketeering and one of money laundering.

- April 2018: Zuma appears in Durban High Court for preliminary hearing, with the case adjourned until June 8.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sudan's 'sister coach' takes love of football to field

Yahoo – AFP, Jay Deshmukh and Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali, April 3, 2018

Salma al-Majidi has been acknowledged by FIFA as the first Arab and Sudanese
woman to coach a men's football team in the Arab world (AFP Photo/ASHRAF SHAZLY)

Gadaref (Sudan) (AFP) - In Sudan, where a women's national football team remains a distant dream, Salma al-Majidi knew the only way to take part in her beloved sport was to coach... and that the players had to be men.

Majidi, 27, acknowledged by FIFA as the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men's football team in the Arab world, is a pioneer in a sport that dominates the region.

"Why football? Because it is my first and ultimate love," said Majidi, clad in sports gear and a black headscarf, as she led players of the Al-Ahly Al-Gadaref club at a practice session in the town of Gadaref, east of Khartoum.

"I became a coach because there is still no scope for women's football in Sudan," said Majidi, who is affectionately called "sister coach" by her team.

Daughter of a retired policeman, Majidi was 16 when she fell in love with football.

It came about as she watched her younger brother's school team being coached. She was captivated by the coach's instructions, his moves, and how he placed the marker cones at practice sessions.

"At the end of every training session, I discussed with him the techniques he used to coach the boys," Majidi told AFP, as she watched her own players practising on a hot day at a dusty ground in Gadaref.

"He saw I had a knack for coaching... and gave me a chance to work with him."

Soon Majidi was coaching the under-13 and under-16 teams of Al-Hilal club in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum on the west bank of the River Nile.

Majidi says she became a coach "because there is still no scope for women's 
football in Sudan" (AFP Photo/ASHRAF SHAZLY)

Limits on women players

Questions like whether she understood football or had the skills to coach men were all put to rest over time, said Majidi, speaking in a soft but confident tone.

Named in the BBC's 2015 list of "100 inspirational women", Majidi has coached the Sudanese second league men's clubs of Al-Nasr, Al-Nahda, Nile Halfa and Al-Mourada.

Nile Halfa and Al-Nahda even topped local leagues under her coaching. She currently holds the African "B" badge in coaching, meaning she can coach any first league team across the continent.

The only other woman to have gained recognition in Sudan's footballing world was Mounira Ramadan, who refereed men's matches in the 1970s.

Sudan joined FIFA in 1948 and established the Confederation of African Football (CAF) along with Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa. It won the CAF trophy in 1970.

Women's football has faced an uphill task since the country adopted Islamic sharia law in 1983, six years after which President Omar al-Bashir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup.

There is no legal ban on women's football in Sudan, but a conservative society coupled with the Islamist leanings of the government have left it in the shadows.

Women do play football but there are no competitions or women's clubs, and they do not play much in public.

"There are restrictions on women's football, but I'm determined to succeed," Majidi, whose dream is to coach an international team, said, as her players kicked up clouds of dust practising free kicks.

Questions like whether she understood football or had the skills to coach men 
were all put to rest over time, Majidi says (AFP Photo/ASHRAF SHAZLY)

'Kids of Salma'

Majidi's journey has not been easy.

"Sudan is a community of tribes and some tribes believe that a woman's role is confined only to her home," said Majidi, a university graduate in accounts and management.

"There was this one boy who refused to listen. He told me he belongs to a tribe that believed men should never take orders from women," she said.

It took months before he finally accepted her as coach. "Today, he is a fine player," said Majidi, who works full-time and receives a salary that is equivalent to that of a male coach.

At first, "people in the streets used to call us 'Salma's kids!'" said Majid Ahmed, a striker and an ardent fan of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

"In school we have female teachers, so what's the problem having a female coach?"

Majidi said her entrance to what was a male preserve is just a start.

"My message to men in general is to give women a chance to do what they want," she said as she prepared tea after a gruelling practice session.

'She was different'

Coming from a traditional family, it was a challenge for Majidi to prove herself to their relatives, recalls her father, Mohamed al-Majidi.

"Then one day, her uncle who used to criticise her saw crowds shouting 'Salma! Salma!' during a match," he told AFP at the family's mud-and-brick home in Omdurman.

"These same relatives now pray to Allah to support her."

From early on, Majidi's mother knew her daughter was different.

"She always preferred wearing trousers... And even when crossing the street, she would watch the boys playing football," said Aisha al-Sharif.